Despite the public health challenges associated with the emergence of new pathogenic bacterial strains and/or serotypes, there is a dearth of information regarding the molecular mechanisms that drive this variation. Here, we began to address the mechanisms behind serotype-specific variation between serotype M1 and M3 strains of the human pathogen Streptococcus pyogenes (the group A Streptococcus [GAS]). Spatially diverse contemporary clinical serotype M3 isolates were discovered to contain identical inactivating mutations within genes encoding two regulatory systems that control the expression of important virulence factors, including the thrombolytic agent streptokinase, the protease inhibitor-binding protein-G-related α2-macroglobulinbinding (GRAB) protein, and the antiphagocytic hyaluronic acid capsule. Subsequent analysis of a larger collection of isolates determined that M3 GAS, since at least the 1920s, has harbored a 4-bp deletion in the fasC gene of the fasBCAX regulatory system and an inactivating polymorphism in the rivR regulator-encoding gene. The fasC and rivR mutations in M3 isolates directly affect the virulence factor profile of M3 GAS, as evident by a reduction in streptokinase expression and an enhancement of GRAB expression. Complementation of the fasC mutation in M3 GAS significantly enhanced levels of the small regulatory RNA FasX, which in turn enhanced streptokinase expression. Complementation of the rivR mutation in M3 GAS restored the regulation of grab mRNA abundance but did not alter capsule mRNA levels. While important, the fasC and rivR mutations do not provide a full explanation for why serotype M3 strains are associated with unusually severe invasive infections; thus, further investigation is warranted.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases